THEY came bursting outta Brizzle on the back of one-foot-in-the-Spector-camp fizzbomb pop classics like “Shimmer” and “I Could Be In Heaven”.
And this year, a mere 34 years after their first show, Bristol indie-pop-punk band The Flatmates released their eponymous first studio album and official debut LP on their alma mater, The Subway Organisation.
The Flatmates is Subway’s first release since 1994. The album is being released by Happy Happy Birthday To Me Stateside.
The only previous long-player the band put out was the singles comp Love And Death: The Flatmates 86-89.
It marks the culmination of a fruitful period of writing for the band, with songwriter-guitarist Martin Whitehead’s tunes being augmented by contributions from singer Lisa Bouvier, bassist Mattias Liddehall, and keyboard player Rocker.
The album was recorded in Bristol at Rocker’s home studio, StAR Studios, by bandmembers Martin, Lisa and Rocker plus bassist Matt and drummer Brian, with guest appearances by Wendy Pickles (The Popguns; The Perfect English Weather); Katie Gatt (Personal Best, Colour Me Wednesday); Geoff Gorton (Arrest! Charlie Tipper, The Dukes Of Mumbai); Harry Furniss (Iceman Furniss Quartet); and Thomas Aherne (The Proctors, Peru).
Listen to the new album, below:
The Flatmates are: Martin Whitehead (MW), Rocker Rosehip (RR), Lisa Bouvier (LB), and Mattias Lidehall (ML).
The track that influenced you/us to start making music?
RR: Many, including The Ramones ‘”Blitzkrieg Bop”, and Desperate Bicycles’ “Handlebars”
MW: Apparently my first ambition, aged 3, was to be a Beatle when I grew up; so maybe it was “Twist and Shout” or “Love Me Do”? More likely the cumulative effect of dozens or maybe hundreds of tracks over a number of years.
ML: “A Lifetime of Pent-Up Sadness”, by Stars in Coma. He showed me that you can write fast and have a song recorded and finished in a day.
Tour bus favourite?
RR: The Spook School’s “I’ll Be Honest”: memories of us shouting along to this one as we drove around Philadelphia.
LB: I definitely agree with Rocker on this one!
ML: Those Spook School memories…
Saturday night tune?
RR: The Velvet Underground, “Waiting For The Man”.
MW: “The First Big Weekend”, by Arab Strap.
LB: “Capricornia”, by ‘Allo Darlin.
ML: “This is the Year”, by Marit Bergman.
And a Sunday morning record?
RR: The Velvet Underground – “Sunday Morning”.
MW: Kathryn Williams – “No One Takes You Home”.
LB: Denison Witmer – “Are You A Dreamer?”
ML: Misplaced Childhood, by Marillion. The whole album from start to finish. Am I fired from the Flatmates now? (MW: Careful, Matt…)
The first record you ever bought?
RR: T Rex – “Hot Love”.
MW: I can’t remember what it was I wanted to buy, but Woolworth’s record department had sold out of it so I bought “Goin’ Home” by The Osmonds instead. Actually, I still think it’s quite a decent song!
LB: It was a record called “Alla får påsar”, by a Swedish artist called Magnus Uggla. The second one I ever bought was the soundtrack to The Lion King -in Swedish. Luckily, it eventually got better from there.
ML: “Sleeping Bag”, by ZZ Top. Now am I fired?? (MW: Written warning!)
The cover version we/I would love to play?
RR: Anything unexpected; for example, I’m really pleased with our version of Prince’s “When You Were Mine”.
MW: Oh definitely. The best cover versions are the ones that surprise people, and that they don’t expect. Really good covers can make you reassess your opinion of an artist. Considering my previous answer, and the cover of our album, perhaps “Crazy Horses” by The Osmonds would be a good cover? There’s definitely an exuberant keyboard part for Rocker in “Crazy Horses”!
LB: “Paper Rings”, by Taylor Swift. It’s got a great beat and I would love to do it with some fuzzy guitars.
ML: “Capricornia”, by ‘Allo Darlin.
The best cover of all time?
RR: Galaxie 500’s version of “Ceremony”.
MW: Johnny Cash’s cover of Nine Inch Nails’ “Hurt”. Such an unlikely combination, but he totally made the song his own. The best Johnny Cash song that Johnny Cash didn’t write.
ML: Elvis Presley’s version of “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling”. Fat Elvis is the best Elvis!
The best cover version of your music?
RR: That version of ‘Tell Me Why’ by The Frenchmen is pretty ace.
MW: Personally, I love the 44-second cover of “I Could Be In Heaven” by the Hawaiian/Californian noisecore band, Bag of Chisels. (You can find it on BandCamp.) I like all the cover versions of our songs, but that one’s crossed so many barriers geographically, stylistically, by musical genre. It’s great that it’s escaped from the indie “bubble”. The Sneaks (from New Zealand) do a fairly straight cover of “I Could Be In Heaven”, that they blast through at breakneck speed and get half the words wrong, but the unashamed enthusiasm is wonderful.
The best song we/I have written?
RR: I’ll leave that to Martin and Lisa to answer.
MW: It’s always the next one! I always say that songs are like children, though; it’s impossible to pick your favourite and you love different ones for different reasons. Maybe it’s “I Could Be In Heaven”; maybe it’s “Shimmer”. If you forced me to choose the “best” song on the new album I’d say “Last Guitar In Town” – or maybe it’s one we haven’t played yet!
LB: I always like the one I just wrote the best. After a while I’m not happy with them at all, and then I can listen to songs I wrote ten years ago and think “Yeah, that was actually pretty good”. I haven’t written that many Flatmates song but I do like “Punk Moth”, mostly because it’s great to play live.
The song that I remember most from my childhood?
RR: Bobby Goldsboro’s “Honey” – and I still hate it.
MW: It could be “Say A Little Prayer”, by Aretha Franklin, or “Music To Watch Girls By”, by Andy Williams; “Hey Big Spender”, by Shirley Bassey or “Spanish Flea” by Herb Alpert and Tijuana Brass; but the one that takes me back to childhood is probably “The Double Deckers Theme” from the TV series The Double Deckers.
LB: I remember my sister playing “Bohemian Rhapsody” super loud and me trying to drown out the song with Hanson.
ML: “Highway of Freedom”, by Jerry Williams. He was a Swedish rock singer who mostly did covers of 50s’ and 60s’ hits, but this one was an original. Awesome high-energy soul music (not like soul music today!).
My favourite track made by friends?
RR: Lonely Tourist – “The Ballad Of Paul Tierney”.
MW: I ran the Subway Organization label so I’d like to call many of the bands friends. Then again, when you run a record label, it’s hard to assume that you’ll end up with many friends. I’m going to pass on this question declaring myself unfit to pass judgment on my friends, real or otherwise.
LB: “Summercat”, by Billie The Vision & The Dancers.
ML: – “And So”, by Stars in Coma.
And by the band that should have been/should be bigger?
RR: Skrugg – “Will The Real Geraldine Please Stand Up And be Counted”.
MW: Any track by The Clouds, but as they generally left a trail of destruction everywhere they went, it might have been a good thing they weren’t bigger. They’d have made Oasis look like a pub band.
LB: “Grävmaskin”, by Trollfnask. Such a good 70s’ rock band.
ML: “Post-it Song”, by Be Like Pablo. I guess it was a “hit” in a small corner of the indie-pop world, but it should have been huge(r).
Our/My guilty pleasure?
MW: Musically, I guess you mean? I’m usually fairly discrete about my enthusiasm for ABC’s Lexicon of Love album. If you like pop that’s a bit more polished, a bit bigger, a bit more impressive than real life then Lexicon of Love ticks all those boxes. The whole thing holds together so well as a collection it feels like there’s a narrative running through it, and of course…that Trevor Horn, totally Eighties, sparkly production.
LB: I don’t feel at all guilty about loving Bon Jovi and Taylor Swift.
ML: Britney. Or Backstreet Boys. Anything that Max Martin has produced, basically.
The record in our/my parents record collection that attracted attention?
RR: Michael Flanders & Donald Swann: ‘The Gnu Song”.
MW: My dad had loads of records by Bacharach and David, Herb Alpert and Shirley Bassey, so at least I heard a few decent tunes as a child. “Walk on By” by Dionne Warwick was the one I remember catching my attention as a six- or seven-year-old. It was a snapshot of this adult world I didn’t understand. Why would someone be crying every time someone saw them? Why would they want that person to ignore them? Beguiling lyrics, a great tune, a wonderful arrangement and that voice. Still one of my favourite songs.
LB: I listened a lot to Ryan Adams’ Gold, that I stole from my Dad.
ML: “Please Please Me”, by The Beatles. It was actually my uncle’s, so I guess you can say that he influenced me the most, but he gave it to my dad after buying the horrible stereo version for himself (such a bad choice.).
The record I shall have at my funeral?
RR: Well, a late friend of mine picked a favourite old indie track for his funeral, and now I can’t hear it without crying, so I wouldn’t choose a song I liked – I’d possibly go for “Honey”, by Bobby Goldsboro.
MW: I’d always imagined being cremated to “Fire” by The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, but maybe that’s too literal. You’d want to choose something that was a good “roll the credits” track as the congregation filter out. “Leaving Here” by Motorhead would do the job.
The words of this song inspire me?
RR: The Younghearts’ “A Little Togetherness”, or Hefner’s “The Day That Thatcher Dies”.
MW: Few people can write an anthem better than Pete Wylie. Wah!’s “Story of The Blues” always picks me up. Failing that, Wah!’s “Come Back”. I don’t really believe in heroes, but I’ll make an exception for Pete Wylie.
LB: “Öronpropp I Örat”, by Bräkne Hoby. It’s about doing what you actually love and it’s been the soundtrack to a lot of changes I’ve made in my life.
The best record ever?
RR: The Ramones, The Ramones.
MW: The “best”, rather than my favourite, has to be Marvin Gaye’s “I Heard It Through The Grapevine”. It’s such a demonstration of maximum effect from what sounds like minimal effort. The opening rim shot, followed by the electric piano riff, the tambourine shake and the strings build in the background. The backing vocals are so discrete, the arrangement is so sparse and every instrument and voice has its own space. That creates a sense of “exposure” and of vulnerability and you feel like you’re in the room as this confrontation unfolds. The best example of less being more. Nothing in the entire recording is pushed to the max or screaming for attention and yet the sum of the parts is absolutely sublime.
LB: This was a difficult question! Probably “Baby Dry Your Eye”, by Marit Bergman.
ML: “Strip Music”, by Strip Music.
The record that makes us/me sad?
RR: Ray Pollard – “The Drifter”.
MW: Tim Buckley’s original version of “Song To The Siren”. The sense of loss is overwhelming.
The record that gets us/me on the dancefloor?
RR: Stereolab’s “French Disko”, or Silicone Soul’s “Right On (Original Version)”.
MW: Martha and The Vandella’s “Heatwave”. I’m easy to please.
LB: I’m Swedish, so obviously “Shoreline”, by Broder Daniel. Honestly, play the first chord to any Swede anywhere and they will go crazy. If you’re not Swedish, you won’t get it (but I recommend you listen to it!)
ML: When the DJ accidentally plays a heavy metal song.
The best record I have ever written/we have ever recorded?
RR: I’d have to say our new album, The Flatmates.
MW: I’d have to agree. It does what we set out to do. It’ll please existing fans, but also offers up some new aspects to The Flatmates’ sound. It sounds great, and looks good too.
LB: How can I disagree? 😉
ML: What they said.
Listen to The Flatmates’ Soundtrack of Your Lives below: